Copyrighted material


by Sandip Roy

on Musharraf's martial law

(PNS) -- President Pervez Musharraf did not declare a state of emergency in Pakistan. It was Chief of Army Staff Musharraf who did so. The distinction matters, says the Pakistani American community. The cynical joke goes that while most states have an army, in Pakistan the army has a state.

In fact, writes columnist Khalid Bhatti on the popular website, the only thing missing in Musharraf's declaration of emergency was changing the name of Pakistan to "Sultanat -e- Pakistan barayay Imarat-e-Afwaj-e-Pakistan (Sultanat of Pakistan to be ruled by Armies of Pakistan)."

General Musharraf said he had to declare a state of emergency because he could not "allow this country to commit suicide." But he's not fooling anyone, not even his own diaspora community, many of whom had tentatively supported him when he seized power in a 1999 coup. Then, says Agha Saeed, founder of American Muslim Alliance, Pakistani-Americans were so fed up with the "corrupt and inefficient" civilian administrations of Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, they'd given Musharraf the benefit of the doubt. "At first Musharraf did introduce some amount of efficiency and stability, even increasing the number of women's seats and minority seats," says Dr. Saeed. "But now he's shown it's just business as usual."

In fact, says a blogger on the popular South Asian website Sepia Mutiny the general sounds "like a child who threatens to stop everybody from playing unless they stop making fun of him." Musharraf compared himself to Lincoln who violated the U.S. Constitution to keep the country together. But the blogger jokes, he sounds a lot more like Rodney Dangerfield complaining that he can't get any respect.

"Musharraf's political capital is completely gone," says Ijaz Syed of the group Friends of South Asia (FOSA). FOSA, which was scheduled to have a joint Eid-Diwali celebration dinner in Newark, California over the weekend hastily added a Pakistan situation update and issued a strong statement demanding the restoration of democracy.

The Pakistani American National Alliance (PANA), a coalition of Pakistani-American organizations has accused Gen. Musharraf of "high treason" and organized protests in front of the consulates in Chicago, Dallas and New York and is planning another one in Los Angeles.

But, says Agha Saeed of the American Muslim Alliance, Pakistani-Americans are not angry with just Islamabad. "We have to challenge the State Department's hypocritical attitude," says Dr. Saeed. He points out that media in West have tended to interpret Condoleezza Rice's initial reactions to martial law as a warning that Washington would reexamine its aid to Islamabad. But, says Dr. Saeed, Dr. Rice said nothing of the sort, merely describing the events as "highly regrettable" and promising to review the whole situation in the context of security. Translation – do nothing. In fact, says Saeed, U.S. Admiral William J. Fallon was present in the military headquarters in Pakistan while Musharraf was issuing his declaration of emergency.

M.K. Bhadrakumar, a columnist on the Indian news portal agrees. "Musharraf has Support of US, UK" reads the headline of his column. Musharraf, Bhadrakumar points out, spoke to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown 48 hours before his proclamation of emergency rule. "The initial statements of ‘regret' by the Western capitals, especially Washington, indicate that their dealings with the Musharraf regime will continue," writes Bhadrakumar. The worsening situation in Afghanistan has left the United States with no option but to continue to keep its eggs in Musharraf's basket.

But FOSA's Ijaz Syed says the West needs to see what Musharraf does, not what he says. While Musharraf cited "extremists roaming around freely in the country" as one of his main reasons for clamping down, Syed says "in the past two days not a single ‘jihadi' element has been arrested." Instead human rights activists like Asma Jahangir have found themselves under house arrest. "Only people who stand for democracy and constitution are being rounded up," says Syed. "At the same time they are actually negotiating with militants who are holding some army personnel hostage."

The message, says Syed, is clear. After months of allowing protests by students and lawyers on the streets and televisions of Pakistan the generals have said, "The show is over." But it might not be, writes Anil Kalhan in a blog on Dorf on Law. The "old Pakistan Army magic trick" whereby the judges of the Supreme Court newly swore allegiance and in effect whitewashed the dictator with "constitutional normalcy" seems to have run its course. Eight of the 11 Supreme Court justices have signed an order calling the state of emergency illegal.

They are going to need all the help they can get, says Ijaz Syed. "Any small action we can do here will help activists over there," says Syed. "The first thing we must do here is deny Musharraf any legitimacy," says Agha Saeed.

Meanwhile says blogger Manish Vij from New Delhi, Indians can offer some survival tips to their Pakistani counterparts. Thirty years ago, faced with the possibility that a court decision might go against her Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed her own Emergency on India. "Stock up on cheap gas, flour and rice," advises Vij on and "Beware of white vans roaming the streets." But even if Musharraf goes, says Vij, don't worry. Benazir Bhutto is back from exile just in time. There might be another "America-backed dictator" in Pakistan and "she might even be prettier."

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Albion Monitor   November 5, 2007   (

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